Exercising in the summer or hot weather, when the heat is unbearable, can be tough.
But that shouldn’t stop you from working out. So in this post, you’ll learn the best tips for staying cool when exercising in the heat.
First, let’s first understand what happens to our bodies when we exercise.
What happens when we exercise in hot weather?
When you exercise, your body generates heat. This heat generation is natural.
The body tries to dissipate this heat, in a bid to keep its core temperature within the normal range. The dissipation of heat is done mainly in two ways.
The first way is through sweating. Let me explain.
As the core temperature of the body increases, sweat glands in the skin produce droplets.
These droplets serve to reduce body temperature by conveying excess heat to the surface where they can be lost by evaporation.
These droplets are what form our sweat. The production of sweat on its own is not what causes heat loss, but the evaporation of these droplets from the skin.
The second way the body loses heat is through blood-flow. No, you don’t have to bleed out to lose heat.
What happens is that the body redirects the flow of blood. More blood flows to the skin in a bid to lose body temperature through the skin.
Take for example running. Running in warm weather causes an increase in the core body temperature.
This is because of the external heat while running in cool weather doesn’t have that much effect on the core body temperature of the body.
Exercising in heat and sweating
In warm weather, the body produces more sweat.
The production of more sweat means the body gets dehydrated and loses electrolytes faster, as sweat is made with body fluids, mainly blood plasma and electrolytes.
Redirecting more blood to the skin means less blood is supplied to the muscles and the gastrointestinal tract.
Muscles need oxygen, found in blood, to perform effectively. Less blood to these muscles corresponds to an increase to maintain the same running pace.
Less blood to the gastrointestinal tract also means the absorption of sports drinks is slower.
Also, this means that the replenishment of the body’s electrolytes by these drinks occurs at a much slower rate than the electrolytes are lost.
How to stay cool when exercising in hot weather
Let’s go ahead and look at the best ways you can stay cool when you are exercising in the summer or hot weather.
1. Monitor heat index before running
Don’t just use temperature to the heat before your exercise. Use heat index rather.
Heat index combines humidity and temperature and, therefore, gives a fairer representation of heat.
Consider it this way, a 75 degrees day with an 80% relative humidity will feel hotter than a 75 degrees day with a 30% relative humidity.
This is why the heat index is more useful than just temperature.
2. Do not wear dark clothing or cotton
The type of clothing you wear is vital. Follow this simple rule, ‘more is less.’
Wear as little clothing as possible. You also shouldn’t wear dark clothes or cotton.
In one study, researchers looked into the consensus recommendations on training and competing in the heat.
Their findings were published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports.
The researchers suggest that clothing that has cooling effects present the advantage of lowering skin temperature and thus reducing cardiovascular strain and eventually heat storage.
3. Practice running in warmer temperature ahead of time
If you’re used to a cooler temperature and will be moving into a warmer temperature in another country, it helps to prepare.
Researchers call this heat acclimatization.
The benefits of heat acclimatization are many. For starters, it helps you improve skin blood flow through increased sweating.
It also helps to expand your plasma volume, which helps to improve cardiovascular stability.
How do you do this?
A few days before moving to the warmer temperature, try working out in the gym in more heat. Create an artificial heating environment by wearing denser or warmer clothes.
4. Drink more water
Water that is stored in the middle layers of the skin comes to the skin’s surface as sweat when the body heats up.
As it evaporates, it cools the body.
Some scientists have suggested that when there is too little water in the body, heat storage increases and the individual is less able to tolerate heat strain.
Drinking a lot of water in the body may reduce physical strain if heat stress occurs during exercise. However, more research is needed for these effects.
Before you exercise, drink a lot of water. During the exercise itself, take breaks and drink some water to stay hydrated.
And even after your workout, in your post-workout cooling phase, drink some more water.
5. Minimize running on hard surfaces or concrete
Keep running on concrete to the lowest level possible.
This is because concrete reflects heat, so as you are giving off heat, they are throwing it right back at you.
Run on grass and trails instead.
Exercising in the heat or hot summer weather is different from the cool weather, especially if that’s what you’re used to.
Take the necessary precautions to adjust your body to the hot weather, so you safely exercise when it’s hot.
Keep in mind, your goal is to be consistent over time with exercises. So exercise in increasing minutes if that’s what it takes to get used to the heat.